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Friday, January 23, 2009

U.S. Navy stopped Iran ship carrying weapons and headed to Gaza

TEL AVIV — U.S. defense sources said the U.S. Navy tracked and intercepted an Iranian ship in the Red Sea that was headed for the Gaza Strip.   

The sources said U.S. marines found ammunition, including artillery shells, concealed in crates aboard the cargo ship.

"There was a huge amount of crates on board and we called for help," a defense source said.

The U.S. television network CBS News reported that the ship was intercepted by the U.S. Navy near Egypt's Suez Canal, Middle East Newsline reported. CBS said the U.S. Navy vessel requested that Egyptian authorities direct the Iranian ship to port for a thorough search.

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"The U.S. Navy has now asked Egypt to force the Iranians to pull into port for a more thorough inspection before being allowed to pass through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean, CBS News reported. "The fear is that those artillery shells will be smuggled into Gaza."

There was no official confirmation of the report from either Egypt, Iran or the United States.

Officials said the United States has sought to enhance tracking of weapons ships to and from Iran. They said Washington has recruited NATO allies, particularly Britain, to contribute naval vessels for patrols in the Gulf and Arabian Sea.

Iran was said to have been the major weapons supplier to the Hamas regime. Officials said Teheran, with help from Lebanon and Syria, has sent thousands of rockets, missiles, anti-tank and anti-aircraft to the Gaza Strip over the past year.

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